A few famous Chicago firsts

           

By Caryl Clem:

Many Chicago firsts lay quietly documented in print unknown to current Chicagoans.  

            A wealthy man traveled to Chicago in 1835 during heavy storms to supervise his brother-in-laws purchase of land in a settlement along Lake Michigan. The roads were muddy trails trapping stagecoaches, too swampy to even walk. The steady flow of settlers buying property along the Lake cumulated in a quick profit after selling only 1/3 of the land. William Butler Ogden, keenly aware of Chicago’s potential, stayed to build this city into a Midwest commercial center. He gave up his New York Senate seat.

            In 1837, William Ogden and 2 others ushered Chicago into cityhood complete with seal and motto Ogden had been the railroad genius consulted by Vice President Marin Van Buren to enable railroads to stretch from the East to Pennsylvania and New York.  Ogden as a member of the New York Assembly convinced members to fund railroads. He served as President on the committee that planned the western railroad expansions.  Believing transportation development was crucial for growth, he merged over 20 small railroads into the C & NW by 1863 cementing Chicago’s future success.

            The marshy canal laced land tracts were bought by the Chicago Land Company in 1853; Chicago’s first mayor was a principal stockholder.  Ogden had this land drained. .   Originally, Goose Island was heavily populated by Irish immigrants.  Alderman Thomas Keane recalled homeowners in the 1890’s loved raising chickens and gardening in the city while living near work.  After the Depression, failed businesses, fewer occupants decreased to three residents by 1970.  In 1990, Daley’s Planned Manufacturing District push revived this area.  

            The first beer research and brewing company in the United States in 1968, founded by a German chemist, John Edward Siebel became Siebel Institute of Technology.  Famous graduates John W. Stroh, Jr. and August A. Busch III demonstrated the quality of instruction offered.  John Hall bought a brewery in 1988 on Goose Island and created Chicago beers. all opens a brewery  In 2003, Siebel Institute offered classes at the Goose Island Brewpub on Clybourne Ave.

            Ogden lost his childhood sweetheart weeks before the wedding; he remained single until age 70.  He built a large house for his sister and mother hosting affairs for future Chicago supporters with a piano accompanied sing along and dinner party, truly Chicago’s first tycoon. He entertained famous guests Martin Van Buren and Daniel Webster. He was active in real estate, iron ore mining, lumbering, banking, and city transit systems.  His personal lawyer to secure land title transfers was Abraham Lincoln.  After the Great Fire in 1871, he moved back to New York City. His ability to shape greatness enabled Chicago to come roaring back, better and stronger from the fire’s ashes.

Living on Lake Shore Drive

As a Baby Boomer lifer in Chicago and the suburbs when I graduated college from Lewis University, I had picked out 3550 Lakeshore Drive where I would live. I ended up moving much further north in Gurnee for my first teaching job. But that’s what we did back in the 1970’s/1980’s after high school or college. We picked out our Lakeshore Drive home. Where did you want to live then or even now? As as a young child, it was Outer Drive East built in 1963 with the geoplastic covered pool. My mother wanted luxurious Lake Point Towers. A friend lived at 900/ 910 Lake Shore Drive in the 1980’s. Now, I can’t begin to find Outer Drive East since so many new buildings tower above it.

According to sources, Lake Shore Drive’s origins date back to Potter Palmer, who coerced the city to build the street adjacent to his lakefront property to enhance its value. Palmer built his “castle” at 1350 N. Lake Shore Drive in 1882. The drive was originally intended for leisurely strolls for the wealthy in their carriages, but when bringing on the auto industry, that changed quickly.

The condos at 3550 Lakeshore Drive are pretty popular still with a store and exercise room and children would attend Lakeview schools. 400 E. Randolph 400 East Randolph Street Condominiums or simply 400 East Randolph is a 40-story high-rise in Chicago and considered Outer Drive East. It was the first high-rise residence constructed on the east side of Lake Shore drive, in an area that has become The New Eastside. You can buy or rent as small as a studio. Other amenities for 400 East Randolph residents included a full service restaurant and bar, beauty salon, dry cleaners, convenience store, 1000 book lending library and 2000 sqft hospitality room with catering kitchen.

At the time of its completion in 1968, the 645-foot tall Lake Point Tower was the tallest apartment building in the world. You may rent or own a condo…generally renting a three bedroom for about 5,000 a month. Definitely a city within a city with many shops and service with a four lane heated swimming pool and state of the art fitness center including a racquetball and handball court.

910 Lake Shore Drive was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe the architecturally significant modern style 26 story building was built in 1951 along with 900 N Lake Shore Drive. They were originally called The Esplanade Apartments and now house 524 condos combined. 

Dog N Suds

By Caryl Clem

The lure of extra money propelled 2 university music professors Don Hamacher and Jim Griggs to open a stand in 1953.  Every college campus offered cheap food hotspots; University Of Illinois in Champaign was no exception. A nothing fancy, DogNSuds Drive In, serving dogs and root beer evolved into a 68 year old company.  How?  Legendary DogNSuds was a lucky merger between a satisfied older lady customer offering cash support and an unforgettable logo. Read on for the real story……

“ Brother, what was your most memorable experience?”  He sat back in his chair, his eyes brightening.   He started, “This is a story not in print but true. I played a part in the DogNSuds logo formation.  A contest was held, the winner would be the emblem for Don and Jim’s growing company venture. Professors I knew.  My fraternity roommate drew the final draft of our combined ideas.   First, an animal Americans’ love had to be selected.  Almost in unison, several young men shouted,” A Dog” !  Perfect connection to hot dogs on the menu. Time debating on what action the dog would do. No agreement until a collection of ideas resulted in a logical conclusion, a dog carrying a tray of food.  My roommate and I exchanged ideas drawing the image, The Winner !.  The intensity of team spirit that night I will never forget.”

The first logo, Disney felt infringed on their characters, so the dog went through a face lift.  During the age of muscle cars, a trip to the drive in was an event showing off your vehicle . The Ingleside DogNSuds  started the practice of “Saturday Night Cruising”.  A magazine commented that by the 1960’s if the town had a stoplight, it had a Dog N Suds. Beginning in 1963, 2 locations still open today are: Richmond, IL. that remains a small family run business  and Grayslake , IL .under new management of the 5th owner.

After declining  sales during the 80’s DogNSuds was sold to Van Dame company in 1991 ; eventually all rights  went  to the current company TK&C’s LLC. The joy taking a trip to one of those Drive Ins will never fade for me. Celebrating summer, cruising, munching  on a Coney dog while sipping frothy stick to your lips root beer. Memories carried in the heat of a summer breeze. Take a trip back in time by reading a book by one of the Cofounders, Don Hamacher: The Journey Through The Life Of Don Hamacher released in 2012.

The amazing life of Miss Frances

I don’t remember her since I was only about 3 or 4 but my Mother, who died the same year in 2001, did not like her because she always told the children on television to run and find their mother. And that is what I did, supposedly, every time I watched her. Miss Frances would then discuss with Moms what supplies were needed for projects. Miss Frances was the host of the children’s television program Ding Dong School, seen weekday mornings on the NBC network in the 1950s and nationally syndicated between 1959 and 1965. Each began with the ringing of a handbell. Miss Frances Horwith was extremely bright and grew up in Ohio skipping many grades because of her intelligence and love of academics.

She came to Chicago and earned her Bachelors degree from the University of Chicago in 1929. She taught first grade from 1929-1932 at a school in Evanston. According to sources, she then became the supervisor of the Works Progress Administration‘s nursery schools in Chicago until 1935. She earned a Masters at Columbia University, directed junior kindergartens and became Dean of education at Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus Teachers College. Finally, she earned a doctorate at Northwestern and was in variety positions as a Chicago school counselor positions and taught at Roosevelt University.

Ding Dong School was a half hour children’s TV show which began in Chicago in 1952 and the first pre-school series before Romper Room by one year. Just after the show aired for the first time, the station received 150 phone calls praising the show. She was the only one on air admired by Fred Roger and activities could range from modeling clay to finger-painting. She had over a million viewers and won the Peabody Award but the show was cancelled because she refused to commercialize childrens education.

She was the author of over 25 children’s books and had moved to Arizona since her husband was having health issues in the 1970’s A month before her death, Horwich was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of the Television Arts and Sciences on June 2, 2001. She died of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.

Thorndyke Hilton Chapel in Chicago

Miss Mavis Emerson, daughter of Lottie Emerson of Kempton, and John Korff were married at 1pm Saturday, August 5, 1949 in the Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago with Reverend Robert E Tinker officiating. The bride wore a gown of white silk chiffon over white satin with a full skirt and front panel with imported lace.…….. And the article from the Pentagraph continues to describe the Maid of Honors dress, Arlene Gates from Kankakee, in explicit detail though I was fortunate to have pictures and a movie. My mother, Mavis Korff, was a secretary, my father owner of Glass Sales and Service at 6755 South Chicago Ave and began their marriage at 2148 East 81 Street. However, the story is about the quaint Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel where hundreds of Chicagoans were married. It was especially popular for weddings during and after World War 2. At the end of the article, couples are listed that you may know.

Thorndike Hilton Memorial Chapel was located at 5757 South University Avenue which was the former Chicago Theological Seminary building located at was adaptively reused to house instructional and research programs for the Department of Economics and the office, conference, and research facilities for the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics. The chapel was built 1926 and was donated by Mr. and Mrs Henry Hilton in memory of their son Thorndike who died at the age of 21.

Visitors to area could still take a break inside the chapel during the early 2000’s.
The seminary website said: “Our Thorndike Hilton Chapel is open twenty-four hours a day and available for students seeking a place to lead small gatherings or to spend time in individual prayer and meditation. The cloisters, a long corridor with one wall of glass doors that look out on the stone-terraced garth, is also a favorite place to reflect, especially during the afternoon hours when the hall is flooded with sunlight.” Dee Stribling talks about her visit to the chapel and though small, quite powerful. Its glory is in the stain glass windows that are exquisite.

Just to name a few that married at the chapel:

James Thomas Jones to Esther Mildred-1937, Shirley Stansbury married Robert Thomas – 1949, Dorothy (Dottie) Louise Watson married Howard Hilton-1948, Jean Hambly to Stuart Miller- 1946, Gwendolyn Lucille Cattorini to Walter J. Schroeder-1943,Gordon Lee Mennen to Teresa Harms, 1942, Ivan McDaniel to Lois Stansbury-1957, Kathyrn Marshall to Walter Taylor-1942, Elizabeth Law to Theodore Roberts-1953

EBay offers wonderful postcards of the chapel; some I own but there are some that are currently out of stock.

Two Chicago commuters create Tinkertoys

By Caryl Clem:

Conversations about the lack of job satisfaction formed an unlikely friendship between a tombstone engraver and a young grain stock broker Chicago commuters on their ride home to Evanston.  Charles Pajeau had graduated from Chicago’s Harvard Boys School taking engineering classes. He dreamed of entering the toy market. 

Charles Pajeau observed children playing daily with wooden spools that had holes placing various size sticks  and pencils to create objects while Robert Pettit had noticed wealthy children  quickly becoming bored with toys.  Pajeau invented rounded wooden circles with 45 degree angle holes on the sides and one on top. This design allowed endless possibilities to place sticks to create right triangles as a base for construction. In 1914 the two men blended their resources to open Toy Tinkers Inc.  located in Pajeaus basement at 325 Greenwood Avenue Evanston.

The toy was packaged in a tin can sitting on shelves at cigar stores and newsstands that first Christmas in 1914.  The sales the first Christmas were less than promising. Chicago area retail stores thought the tin can packaging was not worthy of elaborate window displays Pajeau tried to start. Eager to expand his market, Pajeau traveled to New York to advertise in a window display.  Key traffic areas in New York on 34th and Broadway, Grand Central Station and Macy have promoted this educational toy to inspire future builders of America. A showroom featured Tinkertoys at 200 Fifth Avenue. The production by 1915 was 900,000 sets.

Advertising exposure with product expansion, adding an electric motor, rustic Lincoln Log sets appeared Erector sets increase building designs meant total sales soared to over 6 million during the 1919 Christmas season.  By 1947, Tinker toys made Illinois the third biggest state in toy manufacturing. Pajeau served his employees coffee, lunch, and built exercise facilities. In 1964 the Charles H. and Grace F.  Pajeau Children’s Foundation was begun to raise money for underprivileged and needy children. 

The pure joy to see a creation you built is ageless.  I had a Lincoln Log set I inherited from my older brother. On days I needed to feel like I could conquer the world, I would empty the can on the floor. Time passed while I imagined building the first homestead with a relative.  Proof of a successful venture took shape in my hands. By dinnertime, I went downstairs with more confidence to face the world.  Research has shown that Tinker toys play a critical role for the brain to form spatial relationships and has been used in studies to build team management skills

Sales remain strong in company that has changed ownership 6 times; the current owner is Hasbro Corp. of Central Falls, R.I.   The 100 plus year company has an exhibit, the “Toys of Yesteryear” at the Lakeside Historical Society.    Information about what the “tinker men” created in Evanston can be found at Evanston Historical Society.  The Chicago Museum collection includes Tinker toys. Tinker toy is a member of the National Toy Hall of Fame.  A toy encouraging creative building will never be obsolete.

Chicago’s Frazier Thomas at Christmas

For me, it began with sitting in front of the small TV in the den. I had a card table and chair that was set up so I could do a paint by number from Bargain town with a small glass of 50/50. I loved paint by numbers….still do…and my father knew the owner of 50/50. It was here that I first met Frazier Thomas and his puppets. Garfield Goose and Friends, created by Thomas, aired at approximately for 4 or 5 central time, right before dinner in Chicago.

Frazier Thomas created Garfield Goose the puppet and the show. It began on other stations but in 1955, they found a permanent spot at WGN and became Garfield Goose and Friends. He wrote it and produced the long running Chicago childrens show. This was my favorite show and host of several cartoons. This site offers the best memories of cartoons and live action segments which included Clutch Cargo, Space Angel, Pow-Wow the Indian Boy, Spunky and Tadpole, The Funny Company, My favorite was Journey to the Beginning of Time.

During the holidays, Suzy Snowflake, UPA’s Frosty the Snowman.and The Three Little Dwarfs (Hardrock, Coco and Joe) were Chicago children’s TV christmas hosted on Garfield Goose. Suzy Snowflake is a song that was originally made famous by Rosemary Clooney. Here comes Suzy Snowflake dressed in a snow white gown will stay with me always. It was a short black and white cartoon with stop motion animation made about snowflake in 1953.

Suzy Snowflake https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaUBpsn4QjQ

Thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump thump, look at Frosty go is how I will remember the first Frosty produced in 1950. Made by Castle films, you can play it over and over hearing the lyrics match those precious memories watching on television as well as airing on Bozo’s Circus in 1955.

Frosty the Snowman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SocOdoXKYY

Finally, The Three Little Dwarfs was about three of Santa’s helpers who ride on Santa’s sleigh each Christmas produced in black white in 1951. Joe is extremely tiny and has a very low, deep voice which I remember the most. For some reason, Santa had a wierd expression and cartoon was improving rapidly at the time though sitting in front of the black and white television as a child was still the only choice for late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Hardrock, Coco and Joe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfQoZCCU4-k

When I became a little older on a Sunday afternoon, it was the family’s favorite, Family Classics which began in 1962 which showed classic films such as the Adventures movies that included Huckleberry Finn, one I loved, Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood, and the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Thomas actually produced the show and edited them so that they were appropriate for viewing. At Christmas time, it was Scrooge, or the Christmas Carol though now Christmas, I always liked Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

When Frazier suddenly passed away in 1985. He actually had a stroke and was at work when it happend. Roy Leonard became the host of Family Classics which had a regular run up until December 25, 2000. At that point Family Classics was no longer on the air. In 2017, Family Classics was brought back with a special Christmas time showing of Scrooge (1951) hosted by Dean Richards.

Kaye Kraus offers some wonderful Chicago television photos.

Memories of Maxwell Street: The Maxwell Street Foundation

In the 1930’s, my German father remembers buying dishes with his Mom on Maxwell Street Chicago as well as pots and pans; always finding something useful. It was Grandma’s time to socialize. German immigrants were some of the first to settle. My friend remembers arriving on Maxwell Street with his Polish grandfather in the 1960’s bargain hunting for tools, appliances and produce. And he remembers polish sausage,corned beef, used books, scissors, knives and looking at clothes. All sorts of products could be found at Maxwell street for the right price. Maxwell Street was the best flea market in the city.

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago,  in the early 1900’s immigrants arrived from several continents and many countries shortly before the turn of the century. First to come were Germans, Irish, Poles, Bohemians, and, most prominently, Jews, especially those escaping czarist Russia, Poland, and Romania.

The same friend of mine was growing up as a young musician especially loving the blues. Maxwell Street, right after World War II, was known for street musicians primarily blues and gospel. Famous band leader Benny Goodman was born in Chicago in 1909 and spent most of his youth playing the clarinet on Maxwell Street. The Blues Brothers movie produced in 1980 features Maxwell street. It truly was the birthplace of the Chicago Blues. Maxwell Street was the first stopping place for thousands of African-Americans newly arrived from the Mississippi Delta. Many performed at Maxwell Street with their harmonicas and guitars as well as known gospel singers such as Carrie Robinson and Thomas Dorsey.

The Maxwell Street Foundation has been established that offers an excellent history. Beginning in 1993, one year before the historic Maxwell Street Market was moved from the location it had occupied since 1912, future Foundation members advocated alternatives to the removal of Maxwell Street residents, businesses and buildings as the University of Illinois at Chicago cleared the area for its south campus expansion. They worked to preserve the street and they were able to save several buildings.

The Maxwell Street Foundation offers walking tours of the Maxwell Street neighborhood by appointment, sharing insights into the architecture, history and cultures. The Maxwell Street Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and contributions are tax deductible.

In October 2008, Maxwell Street Market moved to the intersection of Roosevelt Rd. and S. Des Plaines Avenue. For over 100 years, The Maxwell Street Market is still a Chicago tradition with an eclectic mix of handmade crafts, resale housewares and clothing, live music, family fun and some of the best street food in Chicago.

 

Thankful for music

It was in the beginning of the school year that the kindergarten students were exercising to a variety of music, a selection of songs from all eras, and suddenly Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd came on. They continued, without interruption, but I picked up my pace singing to myself as the substitute gym teacher just smiled. Over Halloween, Michael Jackson moved the children along in movement.

My own children remember me singing to a fake microphone…a hair brush, to be exact, while Whitney Houston played in the background. My daughter and I sang together one night and got caught by her brother and his friends walking in the door. He was ready to turn around and walk out….never to grace our lives again. He was in high school with free rent and food…he thought better of it.

Music has always made me smile and my collection is vast starting in the days of bubble gum rock such as Woman, Woman by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. From there in the late 1960’s/1970’s, we included popular Motown with the hits of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and the Temptations as well as harder rock like Jethro Tull, The Who, Three Dog Night, Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago and the list goes on and on. I even tolerated some disco. I did play piano for many years and easy classical music along with show tunes, popular through the decades, were my best performances.

In many elementary classrooms today, teachers will select videos from Go Noodle, which promotes movement for kids and many have learned how to floss from Blazer. No, it is a dance. And then there is famous Fabio Moose and making purple soup! Now, many, not a great example of beautiful music. Oh my….I sound just like my mother when rock and roll hit the scene.

But our passionate music teacher always saves the day by introducing the kindergarten through second grade students to different forms of classical and shows them how to move through various tempos. Our class sees her twice a week, once on Friday afternoon so it is truly a blessing to leave the school with the true promise of music in my heart. Last week, I listened and watched the students learn how to move and freeze through the orchestrated arrangement of the Syncopated Clock by Leroy Anderson.

Oh, how I remember that song playing on my Mom’s radio by the Boston Pops orchestra, in the kitchen, back in the days when I was in elementary school! Oh yes, Mom..if you are listening….. the lifelike sounds of exceptional music are being introduced and played again everyday. Mom would be proud of the talented music teacher and her students!

 

 

Fifty one years ago: The horrific Illinois tornadoes

For me, it was in the late afternoon after school and I was playing outside at a friends. We were planning our weekend and the weather had been beautiful for April with high temperatures in the 70’s.

It was a time of no cell phones or computers on April 21st, 1967. But Father called from the front porch after getting home from work early, that I needed to get home. Strange, it was not dinner time when the usual call from Mom went out.  My own home was about a half a block west from where I had been playing and I was shocked as I glanced at the western sky.

I suddenly noticed that the trees, the birds were quiet for April and the sky was a heavy gray, tinged with a smudge of green.  Like the massive snowstorm months before, Chicago’s weather was about to change.  Something in my heart told me that the call to home was not a good one and I raced to the front porch, my Dad sat in his chair.

He loved storms and that was his spot regardless of the severity but this time he told me and Mother, who was standing inside the front door, that we needed to be in the basement immediately. At no other time in my short life, do I remember that command. Mom and I headed for the basement, me first but Mom kept trying to get him to come in as she stood on the basement stairs, scared.

The first tornado, better known as the Belvidere tornado, struck approximately at a little before 4 pm where the Chrysler plant near 1-90 witnessed the destruction of over 400 cars. Then, the destruction continued to the town of Belvidere where hundreds of homes were damaged but it was just at the time that school was getting out and buses were being loaded at the high school.

Elementary students were already on the buses but over 1,200 high students were dismissed and tried to get back into the building. According to sources, twelve buses were rolled over and students were flung like leaves into the field. Thirteen of the 24 fatalities and 300 of the 500 injuries in this tornado occurred at the high school.

At 5:03, Lake Zurich and surrounding suburbs felt the effects of their own tornado where over 75 homes were completely destroyed. Moving rapidly with no warning as had been described by many residents that there was no noticeable roar until upon them. It ripped through Seth Paine Elementary School, tearing down thick brick walls but leaving clocks showing 5:05 pm.  Many people were caught in their autos as they were returning home from work.

But it was the Oaklawn tornado that was on its way to my neighborhood in Calumet Park and according to meteorologists, the worst storm of the day. According to sources, at 5:15 an off duty Weather Bureau employee saw a rotating cloud mass over his house in Romeoville. Windows were blow out at a restaurant at at McCarthy Road and 127th and an observer at the Little Red School House at 99th and Willow Springs Road saw a funnel.

The tornado touched down just east of 88th Avenue between 105th and 106th Streets at 5:24 pM, 24 minutes after the tornado warning was issued for Cook County.  But it continued hitting homes and crossed the Tri-State Tollway, hitting a drive-in movie near Chicago Ridge finally moving to the heart of Oak Lawn. It was here that many homes were leveled. It was here that one of my parents best friend was paralyzed.

As we later learned, Tony was sitting in traffic at the intersection of 95th Street and Southwest Highway where a light pole smashed into the top of his car crushing him as he was heading to pick up his daughter at the Oaklawn Roller Rink. The greatest total of life took place there. Between 25 and 40 automobiles, halted at this intersection for a traffic light, were thrown in all directions, some carried northeast at least a block and set down on the Oak Lawn athletic field.

The Oak Lawn Roller Rink was completely destroyed but his daughter had left early and was safe from the destruction. Four were killed at the rink.  Fortunately, as the tornado passed over the Dan Ryan Expressway and headed our way, it began to dissipate causing lighter damage to vegetation, roofs and garages. According to sources, it finally moved offshore as a waterspout at Rainbow Beach, where we swam as kids.

My father summoned us out of the basement as he had watched the storm pass over from the front porch. Though the clouds were high then, he knew the damage west had been serious. It was the next morning he received the call about one of his closest friends in critical condition.

At least 10 tornadoes raked northeast Illinois, three of which were violent, F4 tornadoes. In the wake of the twisters, 58 were dead, more than 1000 were injured, and there was nearly half a billion in damage costs.